Creating your day as if it were your last.

Creating your day as if it were your last.

8/3/18--I had surgery three days ago. Thankfully, it was nothing serious. Nevertheless, it had me thinking about my mortality. As a nurse, I have seen a lot of death. I have lost several friends, my father, aunts and uncles and cousins. I know I am not alone.

Death is part of life and yet, we don’t talk about it. It is viewed as morbid to discuss. We go around in denial of our impermanence. Today is a gift and tomorrow is not promised.

We procrastinate because of our lack of awareness of our own mortality. We fail to take the vacation that we have dreamt about. We haven’t called our childhood friend who keeps coming into our mind. One day, we will get around to making those scrapbooks or writing that book, maybe.

I know this, because I am talking about myself. I bought the scrapbooks about 4 years ago and they are still on the shelf. I have not called my childhood friend that I have been meaning to for months. I have not gone on the vacation that I have dreamt about. I AM writing the book; well, the introduction is done.

8 a.m.  This morning, I meditated. Birds were chirping. The grass was wet from rain. Mother Nature is always in flux. So am I. After my meditation, I decided to journal about what my plans would be today if it were my last day. If this were to be my last day,  I doubt I  I could make it to the far-off places I hope to travel to someday. But I could make some phone calls and connect to those I love.  Would I worry about my “things”? Would I worry that I had not reached some lofty career goals? Nah. I wonder if I had served others well. Have I impacted the world in a positive or a negative way? These are the thoughts that cross my mind. What if these questions would motivate each and every day I have left?

I launched some intentions to live today as if it were my one and only. I made a bucket list for the day, written below. I didn’t have time for perfection. Nothing fancy…just my stream of consciousness. This is what flowed out:

24 hour bucket list

What if every day we started out with gratitude for this precious gift of another twenty-four hours and considered the possibility that it may be our last? How would our life change with this new awareness and attitude? I set about my day with these things in mind.

8 p.m.  My day was one of connection. I let people know I love them. I ate slower than usual. I worked. I made several mental notes of appreciation throughout the day. It was not perfect. I was not perfect, but I do not need to be. I strive to be my best self. I was honest. I was affectionate. I was allowing. I prayed. I meditated and I journaled my message to leave behind. My message contains some thoughts, nothing original, just thoughts that have become my truth.  My teachers have been Wayne Dyer, Neale Donald Walsh, Marianne Williamson, Abraham Hicks, Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra among others. You may notice their messages in my love note to the world:

Dear Humans (Children),

  1. Don’t take yourself so seriously! Develop a sense of humor that will sustain you during the challenging times. 
  2. Heal your shadows. Hurt people hurt people, so work on not being a hurt person.
  3. Your most important work is to get aligned with the energy that creates worlds and then let your actions ripple out to everything and everyone from that place of alignment. 
  4. You are a unique expression of that divine energy that runs through everyone. Don’t be afraid to let your light shine. Claim your place in the world. 
  5. Every moment is a chance to start anew. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Forgive me, please.
  6. Lead with compassion. If that is difficult, consider this possibility: everyone (including yourself) is doing the best they can given the circumstances,  conditioning and resources at their disposal. 
  7. Acceptance is the answer to all your problems today. 
  8. Stay where your feet are. This present moment is precious. If staying aware of the present moment seems impossible, practice mindfulness meditation. It will help. I promise. 
  9. The Universe is always conspiring for your benefit. 
  10. There IS enough. 
  11. We are all ONE.
  12. Love is all there is at the end of the day. Choose Love. How do you do that? Appreciate everything and everyone. Appreciation and Love are the same vibration. If you are loving someone, you are appreciating them….not judging them and not fixing them. 

Wishing you a life aligned with your truth and allowing your inner light to shine brightly!

Before I go, I am praying this is really not my last day on this beautiful earth. I have some phone calls to make. I have a book to write. I have some scrapbooks to fill. I have people to see. I have chocolate ice cream to sample. I have many more moments to be enjoyed….Broadway, Cape Cod, Italy, future grandchildren…one can only hope!

Love ALL WAYS,

Jeanette (MOM)

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Holidays are touchstones in our lives which cause us to reflect and celebrate. As another Mother’s Day rolls around, I am doing my fair share of reflecting and feeling. Motherhood was my biggest aspiration in life. This aspiration was not fulfilled just by the act of giving birth. Childbirth is certainly an awesome miracle. However, my aspiration to become a mother was grounded in the anticipation of the mother-child relationship and how that connection was going to shape my life and give it meaning. Before I became a mother, I thought that connection was going to be easy breezy. Once I became a mother and experienced the exhaustion of being devoted to another person’s wellbeing 24/7, I realized how naive my expectations were. Still, I persevered as best I could with the tools I had. Today, my feelings consist of gratitude for being a mother, sorrow for missed opportunities, self-compassion for falling short at times, and immense love for my children. I am feeling deep compassion for all mothers. I have witnessed a lot of parental struggle and angst recently. As one woman stated this week “We are only as happy as our least happy child”,  I pondered the truth contained in these words. I think there is something universal in this idea and at the same time, I think we can create space for a different possibility, the possibility that we can remain anchored even when our children are being tossed around in the waves of life. It is something I have been intentionally working on. My intention is to stay neutral so that I can be a container for whatever my children show up with. Mind you, I certainly have not arrived at this serene place where I stay completely calm and neutral when my children are struggling, at least not right away. I go to the familiar place of fear and then remember to BREATHE and then I remind myself that the UNIVERSE is always conspiring for our benefit and that includes my children. And then I sigh, the sigh of a mother, the sigh that lets go and doubts and hopes and lets go again, before arriving at a place of acceptance….a place of equanimity….before arriving home, anchored and knowing all is well.

The gift I wish to give all mothers again this year, including myself, is the gift of loving kindness. Loving kindness meditation is one of my favorite practices. It is a meditation where we send warmth and kindness to others and to one’s self. It is a beautiful way of cultivating compassion. It is also the antidote to fear. But, don’t take my word for it. Try if for yourself.  In this meditation, I sit comfortably, close my eyes and place my hand over my heart. I first send loving kindness to myself, because first things first. Next, I bring a particular person or group of people to mind and send them loving kindness. If a child of mine is going through something difficult, I make sure I am sending them these wishes. I do this by repeating 5 phrases silently. Here are the set of phrases I mentally direct to the person(s) I am thinking about:

           May you be well, healthy and strong.

           May you be happy.

           May you experience peace.

           May you feel safe and secure.

           May you feel loved and supported.

 And at the end, I visualize all the loving kindness that I sent out to others as coming back to me and I repeat the 5 phrases for myself, once again. I do this part because I believe that whatever you send out in the world comes back to us. Yes, it is a kind of boomerang, the Law of Attraction in action.

This year for Mother’s Day, my loving kindness meditation is directed to ALL mothers…to mothers who try their best yet never feel good enough, to mothers who lost a child, to mothers who are estranged from a child, to mothers who have a child in prison or rehab, to mothers who have given their child up for adoption, to the mothers who have adopted those children, to mothers who never saw the face of their child, to mothers who are mothers and fathers, to mothers of four-legged children, to mothers who feel isolated, to mothers who wish they could have 5 minutes alone, to mothers who feel they messed up and still don’t know what the right thing would have been, to mothers who scream at their children and then feel guilty, to mothers who spoil their children and then feel guilty, to mothers of addicts, to mothers of children who are mentally ill, to mothers who work outside the home and wish they were home more, to stay-at-home mothers who have lost their identity, to mothers who are no longer with us physically, to mothers that drag their tired bodies out of bed to do the next right thing for their child, day after day after day, for ALL mothers…mothers who are joyous today and mothers who suffer today, and especially to MY mother, who loves me still with every beat of her heart.

There is no curriculum for being a mother. It is personal, between mother and child. Motherhood is sacred and tough and the biggest honor in the world. It is joyful and sorrowful and never carefree. If we allow it, our children can be our best teachers. They mirror what needs to be healed within us. They are not our trophies. They are our blessings, masterpieces to be discovered….together. I have been and continue to be taught well by the four amazing humans that carved out motherhood for me: John, Katie, Kevin and Sarah.

If you are a mother, send yourself some loving kindness today….and know I have already sent some your way.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

The Anguish and Joy of Parenting

The Anguish and Joy of Parenting

In any given day,  I experience the highs and lows of being a mother of four children.  The lows come in the form of heartache, worry and fear and the highs are felt in the happiness I feel as I witness my kids experience the joys of life. The highs are also generated from just appreciating them exactly as they are.  I know when I am worrying about them, and I do from time to time, I am not loving them. Worry and Love cannot exist in the same space at the same time. When I am worrying, I am not trusting in their journey. I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I want to fix them. But they are not broken and I know that. Deep inside, I know that. My higher self knows that. My gut knows that. However, I am not always seeing the world from this wise, elevated place. When the lens I see my children with is clouded by fear,  my thoughts go to the worst case scenario. I become critical of them and myself. But, here is the good news! Through my mindfulness practice, I can stop myself….stop the runaway train of doom-and-gloom thoughts, stop myself before I open my big fat mouth and say something I don’t want to say, stop myself before I start lecturing, nagging, and projecting. Sometimes, I can stop myself. And sometimes, I am aware I should stop myself, but I don’t. I am a work in progress, after all. And so is every other parent. We are never going to arrive at some high place where we wipe the dust off and say, “We’re done, now THAT was easy.” Hell, no! This parenting thing is damn hard, and amazingly wonderful, and pushes us to become the best selves we can be. And even when we are doing our best, we are going to question ourselves if we could have done better. And that is our cue to be kind to ourselves, to be our own best friend, to give ourselves a freaking break. And that process of leaning into our own anguish with kindness is what builds our resilience to wake up the next morning and drag our tired butt out of bed and do it again. My intention today is to stay neutral about any outcomes for my kids. Hope and fear both exist in the future and are attached to a certain outcome. “I hope my kid gets into a top college” is just the inverse of “I am afraid that my kid won’t get into a top college”. Instead, we can stay where our feet are and empower our kids to do the same. In the present moment, our best selves have the opportunity to emerge. There is such freedom in focusing on the present moment and doing our best work and letting go of any attachment to a certain outcome. Today, I salute all my fellow parents in your quest to be your best self. I wish you less worry and more joy and freedom. And so that I practice what I teach, I wish the same for myself!

Do you want to be Right or do you want to be Happy?

Do you want to be Right or do you want to be Happy?

(This is the first post in the series of “Things I want to tell my kids before I die”.)

As 2017 comes to an end, I have been doing some reflection. I am taking an inventory of my life: what is good, what no longer serves me, and what I can improve upon. I noticed during this holiday season how earnestly people want to be right when they express their viewpoint. I can relate. I was and at times can still be that person who HAS to be right. We have a country divided by differing viewpoints. The same thing happens in families. We suffer because other people are not agreeing with us. We suffer because others are not complying with our wishes. Some of us even lash out because of these differences. We make harsh judgments. We say things that are unkind. This creates tension and hurt feelings. What I love about New Year’s Day is the blank canvas it represents. What are we going to create in 2018? Do we truly want to be happy or do we want to be right? As we head into this year, here are three intentions I will carry with me to ensure it is a HAPPY one.

  1. CHOOSE KIND: This is indeed my biggest intention for the year. Last week I said good-bye to a beloved cousin who passed away before old age had a chance to set in. He was 63 years old. His sister spoke these words during his eulogy and I intend to keep these words with me always: “Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make the journey with us. So… be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.” This says it all!
  1. BEING IN A STATE OF ALLOWING: I intend to be in a state of allowing, allowing others to have their own opinions and to have their own journeys. I will allow others to carve their own path. When I disagree with someone, we can agree to disagree. We can accept each other’s differing viewpoints without diminishing either person. Allowing is the opposite of resistance and control. Allowing and accepting others as they are, creates ease and flow. It creates an atmosphere of freedom as opposed to restriction and limitation. I intend to allow myself to be free to be me. I intend to allow you to be free to be you.
  1. STAY IN ALIGNMENT WITH MY BEST SELF: We all have our moments that our best self shows up, moments of charitable acts, and compassion for others, kind words, selfless giving, and true bravery. We all also have our moments that we are not aligned with our best self, moments that we would rather forget. These are moments of judgment, anger, hatred and cowardice. I intend to have more moments where my best self shows up in 2018. How will I do that? By making myself a priority….by eating right, getting enough sleep, practicing mindfulness and self-compassion, meditating, exercising, and reflecting. Making oneself a priority is paramount to being aligned with our best self. Putting ourselves first should not be confused with self-centeredness. This is especially important for women to acknowledge since most of us are conditioned to place ourselves last on the list of priorities. It was my biggest hindrance for decades. But, no more! Today, I give myself permission to take care of myself first and KNOW that everyone is better off when I do just that.

I am keeping it simple here for 2018…only three intentions to frame my days with. Will I succeed? Sometimes I will. Sometimes I won’t. I am not a saint after all. When I fail, I will forgive myself and set the intention again. We always have an opportunity to begin anew. HAPPY New Year everyone! Wishing you all alignment with your best selves in this upcoming year. The world is counting on it!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

One Last Thing….if you enjoyed this post, sign up for monthly newsletters and join the community of people who want to make positive changes in the world starting with themselves. https://westchestercenterformindfulnessandwellbeing.com

12 Affirmations for the Holidays 2017

12 Affirmations for the Holidays 2017

I am feeling sad tonight as someone I love is not well. Life is oh so precious. Additionally,  I have always struggled during the holidays. Here’s the good news, I know how to give myself an attitude adjustment.  I wrote the following piece 5 years ago to help adjust my attitude for the holiday season. It is still relevant today. I updated it for 2017. Hope you enjoy! And hope it helps some other fellow grinches out there. 

What is it we want during the Holiday Season? Is it a shiny diamond ring, a cashmere sweater or is it Peace on Earth?  There is no right or wrong answer but for many of us, the holidays are a disappointment, a burden, and/or a reminder of our losses. They stress us out! I, for one, have not liked the holidays for most of my life.  I certainly have never embraced them. Where was my resistance? What was I thinking? I was thinking things like “Where am I going to get the money to buy everyone a decent present? How am I EVER going to find the time to get all my shopping, decorating, baking and still work, cook, do laundry, etc. Ugghhh!  I can’t stand those people who bake their cookies, send out the perfect Christmas card, and manage to have their house all decked out; it makes me feel so inadequate. I can’t wait until January!”  With this kind of thinking going on, who could enjoy the holidays? So I asked myself the following question: “Do I want my whole life to go by and look back and realize that I never enjoyed the holidays?” The answer was a resounding “NO!” So, how can I stop resisting this time of year and accept it and just maybe, even enjoy it? I took decisive action and decided to look for the positive aspects of the Holiday Season.  It is certainly within my power to change my conditioned way of looking at the holidays.  Instead of reciting the “12 days of Christmas”,  I am reciting the “12 Affirmations for the Holidays” to help me get in a TRUE holiday spirit. Here goes:

  1. I love being with my family. I am so glad that the holidays “force” us to take time out to be with each other.
  2. I have placed too much importance in the past on the gifts I buy others. I rarely remember the gifts I receive from year to year but always remember how people made me feel. I can be an “uplifter” for others that cross my path. I can make that the gift that I give and I can give that freely.
  3. I love tradition. It makes me happy to trim the tree with the ornaments that bear my children’s names and the year they were born. I love to take my doll size Santa Clauses down from the attic and plug them in. I smile when I pull out my children’s stockings every year and hang them by the fireplace.
  4. I intend to shop locally and do a little each day. I love supporting my local businesses. It makes me feel good.
  5. I can look for people who are not as well off as I am and do something for them this holiday season. Service is the best form of self-forgetting.
  6. I believe my happiness is from within. I concentrate on the inner-knowing that I am worthy without having to have the best gift, the best party, or the best decorations.
  7. I intend to be mindful during this holiday season, taking time to meet old friends, take pictures, sit in front of the fire, and drive slowly at night to take in the beautifully decorated houses in my neighborhood.
  8. I love miracles: Santa’s workshop, enough oil to last 8 nights, a child being born. I will look for miracles every day this season and I KNOW I will find them.
  9. I love having both the Menorah and the Christmas tree being lit in my house. I love variety. I embrace the differences, and know that this kind of embracing brings PEACE on Earth!
  10. The highlight of this Holiday season is sure to be any time spent with my four children. I pray for all mothers and fathers that they may be reunited with their children who are far away, especially our soldiers overseas.
  11. I am alive and well this holiday season. Not everyone made it through 2017 and so far, as of this first night of Hanukkah, I am still walking this earth. What more needs to be said?
  12. And when I am unable to feel the joy of the above 11 items, I will know: “This too shall pass!”

Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth!

Thanksgiving, Teenagers, and Tornados

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends! I find holidays, birthdays and anniversaries to be a time to reflect on where we are and where we are going. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are no presents to buy, just delicious food to bring to a table with people who hopefully you enjoy sharing meals with. I love sitting in circles and sharing stories and this is the holiday that we do just that. Today there are 28 people whom I will be sharing a meal with. Yes, my blessings are abundant, but if you saw me yesterday, you would not get that picture. I was caught up in STRESS, standing on lines getting pies, sitting in traffic as I went from place to place making purchases, and lost in my to-do list and projections.  It was my daughter’s birthday and I was planning her favorite dinner. In the midst of the rushing around, there was a miscommunication with a loved one. Oh, and there was a CAT scan on the schedule. The stress was not because I had pies to buy or a birthday to celebrate or the miscommunication or the CAT scan. The stress was about the stories I was telling myself.  I got caught up in an old tape that I was not good enough, I am not listened to, that I do not matter, that I get no respect. Those stories alternated with worry. I love Thanksgiving but I hate Thanksgiving Eve. There is lots of drinking and drunk driving on Thanksgiving Eve and my grown children are out and about. I worry about that. I worried that the CAT scan might show something that should not be there. And, for God’s sake I have a teenager in the house now. I was losing my innocent baby girl. The feeling I had was  that I was a direct hit for a category 5 hurricane. Well, can you blame me?  I have raised three children already and I know about the storms that accompany adolescence. Why should this fourth child be different? Teenagers are nightmares. Right? Ha! Finally, when I felt bad enough, I stopped. I literally stopped.  I took some deep breaths. I observed my negative thinking and I told myself that they were all lies. BIG. FAT. LIES. Here was the truth: My house was clean. Desserts were bought. Everyone was safe. I am in good health. My daughter who turned 13 was still my darling daughter. Her birthday cake was baking in the oven. Miscommunications happen. We are human, after all. My older daughter was on the train coming home for Thanksgiving. Ahhh, COMING HOME, that is what Thanksgiving is about. But first I needed to COME HOME to center within. It all starts from that place. I strayed from center yesterday. I am human. Today, my intention is to bring my centered self to the Thanksgiving dinner.

For all of you that read this page, wishing you a very peaceful Thanksgiving.  When it gets too hot in the kitchen, step aside, take a few breaths and notice the stories you are telling yourself and begin again. And for those of you that are not sharing a meal with others, wishing you a peaceful Thanksgiving. Hope you are your own best friend and you enjoy the company you keep in the quiet hours.

Today, I am grateful for my health, my husband and children, my family, my friends, and my work. I am grateful for my ability to shift gears in the storms. I am grateful for teenagers, especially mine,  who show me what creativity, vitality and gaining independence looks like. I am especially grateful to my dad who taught me “When it is too hot in the kitchen, GET OUT!”

Mindfulness in America

Mindfulness in America

I am still soaking in the wisdom of the conference I attended this week “Mindfulness in America”. I have studied mindfulness, I practice it daily and I teach it whenever I get a chance.  I couldn’t wait to hear from the experts in the field. I am thrilled that this powerful practice is becoming more commonplace in the western world. My concern about the “mindfulness movement” is the potential for it to be reduced to a sound bite for a t-shirt. It is so much more than a buzzword. Mindfulness, when not diluted, is about freedom from suffering, transmuting pain into resilience, and being fully present for our lives. As Anderson Cooper stated, “Mindfulness may not help me live longer, but it will help me live more fully in my life”. Mindfulness is about creating space for more possibilities, not being an expert but approaching everything as a beginner, even if you are a so-called expert. Mindfulness is about curiosity. Mindfulness is about connecting to the observer that is in all of us, the greater part of us. We are more than just our thoughts. There is that part of us that is the observer of our thoughts. Getting in touch with that Observer is like experiencing the depth of the ocean underneath the waves. That is where the peace can be found. If I don’t take time to connect with the deeper part of ME, I cannot be my best self.

The biggest obstacle to meditating for most people is the time it takes. Taking the time to meditate is a radical act of love. Do you have 15 minutes to sit and meditate? Our society places a huge emphasis on physical fitness. What about mental fitness? The biggest time thief for many of us is the time we spend lost on our devices. My intention is to start taking back my time that I spend in the wasteland of the internet. What if we shaved off 15 minutes of social media time to meditate.  And for those that find sitting on a cushion is unfathomable, I invite you to practice mindfulness walking, eating and doing almost any other task. If you would like more information on practicing mindfulness, go to my website and sign up for the monthly newsletters. There you will find free downloadable meditations and mindfulness practices. https://westchestercenterformindfulnessandwellbeing.com.

I loved playing truth or dare when I was younger. Today it still carries a thrill and a promise.  Here is the Truth of the day: We can change our future by changing our relationship to the present.  Here is the Dare: I dare you join the “Mindfulness Movement”and see for yourself the results of incorporating mindfulness in your own life.

Wishing you harmony in all areas of your life!